ALBANY — With arms folded, Rufus McDuffie orders several members of his basketball team to the baseline.
He never yells or raises his voice, but when the players run to the other end, touch the opposite baseline and run back, the drill is meant to serve as punishment.
“You know if I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t make you run,” McDuffie tells them. “You have nine seconds and you better not be late.”
Then he turns the team mistake into a teachable moment.
“When the ball is ahead of you on defense, that’s how fast you need to run because you have to catch up,” he said.
After stops at Valdosta High School, Washington County and Walker (Ala.), McDuffie is happy to be back in Southwest Georgia after leading Mitchell-Baker to five state titles and three state runner-up finishes in his coaching career with the Eagles that spanned from 1982-2002.
He will attempt to provide some stability to a Dougherty boys program, becoming the fourth coach in as many years.
McDuffie’s resume commands respect and he has gotten it during voluntary summer workouts.
“He means business,” said Isreal Shead, a starter last season. “We need to respect what he’s trying to do to help us.”
McDuffie’s up-tempo style has been welcomed along with his defensive strategy.
“If you don’t know how to play defense, you won’t be on the floor,” Jamie Williams said.
And the legendary coach has his own rules. On Thursday when a player missed a shot, then yelled profanity, McDuffie seemed irritated. He immediately called the player to the side of the court, asked him to repeat what he said and then told him to give him 20 push-ups.
“I don’t talk that way, so my players aren’t going to either,” McDuffie said.
The Baxley, Ga. native is still in good enough shape to play basketball with his team and still is an avid tennis player. He hopes he can stay at Dougherty for a long time.
“I still enjoy it,” he said. “I think we can compete. I’m looking forward to working hard. As long as I feel good doing it, I’m going to go for a while.”
McDuffie’s approach has been well-received. He spoke positively about former coach Ty Randolph’s system and hopes to continue building the foundation that was started. The Trojans started strong last season before a pair of violations concerning ineligible transfer players forced the program to forfeit 17 of their games.
The Georgia High School Association then banned the school from the playoffs for the 2016-17 season for violations that also included illegal practices. Randolph then resigned after the season.
But Dougherty isn’t looking back. The Trojans are looking forward to seeing where McDuffie’s guidance can take them.
“He’s experienced,” Dralandius Davis said. “We know where we want to go and we’re hoping he can take us there.”
McDuffie started at Dougherty on April 4 and already knows the player’s names. After two weeks of summer workouts, he has been pleased with what he has seen.
“These guys are learning how we want to play,” McDuffie said. “When they learn how we want to do things, we’ll be able to compete.”